In response to Russia's blacklisting of 89 EU officials, the European Parliament is restricting access for Russian diplomats and lawmakers. EU-Russia relations have soured over the Ukraine conflict.
European Parliament head Martin Schulz said that until further notice, only the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, and one other unnamed diplomat would receive guaranteed access to the institution. Other diplomats would not be allowed in, while Russian lawmakers would now be received by the EU legislature only on a case-by-case basis. The European Parliament has also suspended its engagement in the committee which had brought together lawmakers from both sides.
"Following the publication of the blacklist of European politicians and officials, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, today informed the Russian ambassador to the EU that insofar as Russian authorities have failed to ensure transparency in their decisions… he considers that it is now justified to take appropriate measures in response," Schulz's office said in a statement released Tuesday, adding that the restrictions would apply "pending the lifting of the blacklist."
The blacklist in question, previously undisclosed by Russia, was revealed to European diplomats last week. It included past and current politicians who have openly criticized the war in Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It came to light after several politicians had been denied entry into Russia in recent months, including German conservative lawmaker Karl-Georg Wellmann who was refused entry on arrival at a Moscow airport on May 25, despite having had a high-ranking invitation for talks about the future of Ukraine.
He was one of the 89 politicians on the list, which reportedly also includes former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Uwe Corsepius, who will soon take over as top adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Leaders across Europe have slammed the travel ban.
According to news agency AFP, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the "absurdity" of the EU's complaints, insisting that Russia was merely responding to Western sanctions against the Kremlin.
Relations between the EU and Russia have worsened over the conflict in Ukraine.
Since Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the European Union has imposed economic sanctions on Moscow as well as visa bans, and asset freezes on several Russian and Ukrainian citizens and organizations it sees as having a role in the conflict in Ukraine.
Moscow denies accusations by Ukraine's government, the EU and their Western allies of supporting pro-Russia separatists battling government forces in Ukraine's east, where more than 6,200 people have been killed in fighting during the past 14 months.
se/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)